This course offers you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with a selection of William Shakespeare’s plays through the art and mechanisms of performance. These plays were designed to be acted and watched; they were not designed to be analyzed as static works of literature on the page. Though much can be learned from literary analysis of Shakespeare’s plays, much can also be learned through watching and reading about the processes directors and actors go through to bring the plays to life on the stage.
The course takes you through many of the different components of performing these works. These include, but are not limited to, learning about and understanding the language Shakespeare uses; paraphrasing the original texts; using the body to express language (breath, shape, movement); using language to create meaning, character, and motivation; non-verbal communication; the use of stage space and blocking; the director’s vision; the creative process of rehearsal; and the role of the audience.
You will be viewing different stage or cinematic performances of the following eight Shakespeare plays: Much Ado about Nothing; Romeo and Juliet; Julius Caesar; Twelfth Night; Hamlet; Othello; Macbeth; and The Tempest. You will have access to the original Shakespearean text, as well as a modern English translation of it, allowing you to follow the performance and more fully understand both the language and the story. The plays have been selected because they provide a variety of genres to examine: history, comedy, tragedy, and the romance. Because of this diversity, we will better understand how the director’s vision and actors’ performance can shape genre and vice versa.
You will also be reading related texts about performance, directing, acting, speaking Shakespearean language, movement and gesture, and other related materials. These will enhance your understanding of the audio/visual materials and help you get a fuller, more detailed picture of the complex processes involved in performing Shakespeare.
By the time you have completed the course, your experience of watching a Shakespeare performance (or any stage/cinematic performance) will be significantly enhanced and you will have a new appreciation for the arts of acting and directing.